There is nothing more frustrating than needing an important document and not being able to find it. If you don’t have your information organized chances are this is a frustration you deal with frequently. When you are enrolling kids in school, getting a passport, or doing a myriad of other things you need your personal and medical documents. You also want to make sure that you are always prepared for unexpected emergencies. That is why it is so important for you to organize personal information now and these tips will help you do just that.
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Pick Your Storage
This is the easiest part of organizing your important information. Choose how you are going to store. You can use a binder for this but you may have to have multiple, itemized binders to hold all of the information you need to store. You can also use a file box, which is what I now use. Not only is this portable, it is also helps keep your paperwork under control because you only have a limited space in which to store it.
I don’t recommend using a large file cabinet for your staple documents (like birth certificates) because of portability. If you watch Agents of the Shield, picture when they make a “large file transfer” and toss the huge file cabinet out the window. This is great for television but not so much for family emergencies. If you want to use a file cabinet for storage be sure to only store paperwork you wouldn’t need immediately following an emergency in it and use something smaller to store the emergency information so you can grab and go. To recap, here are the 3 common storage options:
- Binders – Can require multiple binders to store all of your information.
- File Box – Perfect for portability and reigning in paper clutter.
- File Cabinet – Holds a lot of paperwork but is not portable in emergencies.
What to Include
The information and items you want to include will vary by individual families. However, everything you need to store will fall into 4 basic categories: personal, career, home/vehicle, and financial. To help you out, here are some basic examples of what to include broken down by category.
- Birth Certificates
- Social Security Cards
- Marriage License/Paperwork
- Adoption Paperwork
- Health Insurance Information
- Medical Records
- Power of Attorney Paperwork
- Recent Pay Stubs
- Employment Contract – This is important in case there are any mix-ups down the road about what was agreed to when you were hired or promoted including pay rate, hours, and vacation time.
- Military Paperwork – This includes items such as LES (Leave and Earnings Statement), orders, and a drill schedule if serving in the Guard or Reserve.
- Vehicle Titles
- Vehicle Insurance Paperwork
- Home Insurance/Warranty Information
- Home Appliance Receipts
- Work and Improvement Receipts and Contracts – This includes if you hire a lawn care company, have new windows installed, or have your basements sealed for water. If anything were to go wrong or the work is not up to par, you want to have easy access to this information.
- 401K or other Retirement Information
- Savings Bonds
- Checking and Savings Account Information
- Previous Years’ Tax Documents
- Bills and Payments
- Cancelled Checks and Carbon Copies
It is always a good idea to back up your information. Scan in copies of birth certificates, social security cards, and other personal documents. You also want to keep digital copies of your tax returns and military orders. In addition to saving digital copies here are a couple more tips for keeping your information safe:
- Keep additional copies of birth certificates in a secondary safe place in the event of an emergency or natural disaster. Ask a parent or trusted family member to store the copies for you or rent a safe deposit box at your bank.
- You should never store your social security card in your wallet. A thief will have everything he or she needs to steal your identity between your driver’s license and social security card.
Know exactly where the information you need is located when you follow the steps above. Take the time to organize your information now and you will be prepared with the paperwork your kids will need for back to school. Make a hectic time of year a little easier for your family. In addition to that, you have also prepared for multiple emergencies by storing them in something you can carry out the door and by making it easy to procure replacements quickly when needed. Get more organizing tips before you go with Organizing Your Life A to Z.